From Derecho

It would seem that some of the public testimony at yesterday’s Senate Commerce and Labor Hearing on SB1110 both hit the mark and left a mark on some of our more sensitive members of the upper house.

It should be noted that the bill was reported out 12-2-1 as follows:
SB 1110 Utility Facilities Act; associated facilities of an electrical transmission line.

01/30/17  Senate: Reported from Commerce and Labor (12-Y 2-N 1-A)
YEAS–Wagner, Saslaw, Norment, Newman, Obenshain, Stanley, Cosgrove, Chafin, Lucas, McDougle, Sturtevant, Spruill–12.
NAYS–Stuart, Black–2.
ABSTENTIONS–Dance–1.

Speaking in opposition to the bill: VACO, VML, PEC, State Aviation, Loudoun and Prince William County. Speaking in favor of the bill, well, not surprisingly APCO, Dominion Power and their industrial customer.

The fun part began after the public testimony as Senators Stanley and Cosgrove took great offense at having the intentions and integrity of the Senators questioned.  A visibly angry Senator Stanley stated that he resented questions about his integrity and swore that Dominion’s representatives had not contacted him and that there was no conspiracy afoot.  Senator Cosgrove chastised the public asserting that he was disgusted by a direct assault on the integrity of the Committee members and that he had never witnessed such in the past.  Well, all I can say is Buckle Up Buttercup because you likely haven’t seen anything yet.   BTW, lack of integrity is not an issue foreign to the Virginia General Assembly, need I remind anyone of the circumstances regarding Delegate Hamilton and his present accommodations in the Hoosegow as a result of convictions for bribery and extortion.  Thus, I present to you the campaign contributions received by the fifteen members of the Committee from Dominion and APCO and will allow you a moment to digest them

So, the twelve Committee members who voted in favor have received a total of $956,899 from those two power companies (there are others they have received contributions from) for an average of $79,742 per member.  The two who voted in opposition collected a sum total of $39,000 (I will ignore Sen. Dance who apparently couldn’t be bothered to vote).  What is truly astounding is that the $726,502 contributed to those twelve members of the committee who voted in favor of the bill, constitutes 57% of the total $1,276,661 contributed to all 40 current members of the Senate in all of their campaigns for office.  If there is a sense that there is the opportunity for conspiracy, some manner of pay for play or questionable integrity, it is a direct result of those campaign contributions that seemingly give Dominion most favored status.

Senator Stanley, don’t preach to me when I come down to speak at the next hearing.  Unlike you, my skin is like Kevlar and I give as well as I receive.  If you thought yesterday’s testimony was blunt, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Playing me for a bumpkin incapable of understanding the bigger picture will likely only result in my increased cynicism and biting sarcasm.  You are not fooling anybody.  You have had ample opportunity to make amendments to the bill that would make it more palatable or ease concerns, opportunities you blithely dismissed.

Although it might have gone over your well coiffed head, those paying attention have noted that, your assertions aside, Dominion has played both sides and has both testified and lobbied in favor of the SB1110 and HB1766 (just not with Delegates they know oppose it).  Similarly, Delegate Farrell has invoked Rule 69 and abstained as a result of a conflict of interest, I guess you don’t know his father is the CEO of Dominion.

Perhaps if you spent less time on hair product and more time trying to understand the potential future impacts of such legislation, potential future impacts that are obvious to even the layman, perhaps you would face such scathing testimony (it really wasn’t scathing but I suspect the next round will be).

Quite frankly, if nothing else, these bills are solutions in search of a problem.  They will accomplish little more than stripping away local government oversight on infrastructure and set a dangerous precedent for future legislative maneuvering around judicial decisions that adversely impact Dominion.

I have heard you and Delegate Habeeb argue that the bills are necessary to streamline the approval process for much needed 138kv transmission lines, particularly those constructed by APCO.  Curiously, APCO stated in an interview with the WCAV that “it is not often the utility needs to get formal approval from localities in order to build transmission lines”. Further, John Shepelwich, spokesman for Appalachian Power stated in an interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch, that “he could not recall a specific instance where a locality had barred a substation associated with one of the lines”.

Nevertheless, you two clowns continue and allege the bills do not take “anything away from local government because they’ve never blocked one of these projects with local zoning because they’ve never had the authority to do so”.  Conversely, you both assert that the bills are necessary to circumvent a 2013 Supreme Court decision regarding the Surry-Skiffes Creek project.  Well Senator Stanley and Delegate Habeeb which is it, no impact or skirting Supreme Court precedent.

If enacted, these Trojan Horse bills would allow for future legislation that would further erode local government oversight on local infrastructure and zoning, transferring that authority to an unelected SCC.  That would effectively marginalize the knowledge of local governments and strip residents of their ability to voice their concerns to the elected body closest to them.

In short, SB1110 and HB1766 do not protect the property and due process rights of residents of the Commonwealth.  Rather, these bills will solely benefit utility companies, granting them de facto zoning powers upon a cursory review by the unelected members of the SCC.  In effect, they would establish a government separate from and independent of the government of the Commonwealth of Virginia; in violation of Article 1, Section 14 of the Virginia Constitution. A vote for either of these bills is a vote in favor of large corporate monopolies, which you were not elected to represent.  A vote in favor would also further the observation that the Virginia General Assembly is the best legislature money can buy, particularly if that money comes in the form of campaign contributions from Dominion Virginia Power.